The F-35A Just Arrived in Seoul Amid Tension With North Korea

Members of the 388th Fighter Wing’s 4th Aircraft Maintenance Unit drag chocks as Lt. Col Yosef Morris, 4th Fighter Squadron Commander prepared to deplane after he flew the F-35A jet to Hill Air Force Base from the Lockheed Martin factory Sept. 27, 2017. This is the 4th FS/AMU first F-35 assigned. (U.S. Air Force photo/Todd Cromar)

The Air Force’s version of the F-35 has made its debut in Asia.

The Joint Strike Fighter touched down this week for South Korea’s Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition, known as Seoul ADEX 2017, the Air Force said.

The U.S. military’s newest stealth fighter joins the F-22 Raptor, A-10 Thunderbolt II, C-17 Globemaster III, C-130 Hercules, B-1 Lancer, KC-135 Stratotanker, E-3 Sentry, U-2 Dragon Lady and RQ-4 Global Hawk, along with some Army and Navy aircraft, at the show, being held roughly 35 miles from North Korea’s border, the service said in a release on Friday.

The two F-35As from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, were accompanied by 27 maintainers, the release said.

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The F-35 will not perform any special maneuvers for the show, staying on static display only, according to an Air Force spokesman.

However, this year’s air show will feature demonstrations from Raptors assigned to the 3rd Wing, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; an A-10 assigned to the 51st Fighter Wing, Osan Air Base, South Korea; and a C-17 with the 15th Wing, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Pacific Air Forces officials said.

“Support to air shows and other regional events allows the U.S. to demonstrate its commitment to the stability and security of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, promote standardization and interoperability of equipment, and display capabilities critical to the success of military operations,” PacAF said in a separate release.

ADEX concludes Oct. 22, but it is unclear if the Pentagon’s most lethal jet will stick around for operational exercises with Pacific allies.

In August, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said the F-35A is ready and poised to go to the Pacific — or any theater, for that matter — should tensions escalate with North Korea.

“We now just passed 100,000 flying hours with the F-35, and it is doing very well. And in any contingency, if there were a problem, they’re ready to go — ready to go to combat,” Wilson told reporters during a briefing at the Pentagon.

While the Air Force hasn’t yet flown the F-35A in operational exercises, the Marine Corps this year deployed a squadron of F-35Bs to Iwakuni, Japan, which on Aug. 31 flew alongside B-1B Lancer bombers and both Japanese and South Korean F-15 fighters in a show of force to North Korea.
In April, the Air Force dispatched a handful of F-35As overseas to Europe for several weeks in the aircraft’s first training deployment to the continent.

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Oriana Pawlyk
Oriana Pawlyk is a reporter for She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.